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As the dust from last week's decisive mayoral primary settles, some are questioning the scruples surrounding the use of community service workers to man a pre-election event supporting second-place candidate Tom Knox.

Several Penn students among those completing court- or school-ordered community service hours at the time, said they were surprised when supervisors instructed them to set up food and amusements at a West Philadelphia park where Knox later gave a speech.

The so-called rally took place at 52nd and Pine streets' Malcolm X Park the weekend leading up to the election.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, a Knox supporter, also spoke.

Though Blackwell, whose district includes University City, has denied that the event was partisan in nature, the students' concerns have sparked an internal investigation of University City's Community Service Program.

Engineering graduate student Luke Walker told the Philadelphia Daily News that he and other workers reported to the University City District on May 11 and sat through an orientation before being assigned tasks.

Walker was originally in charge of cleaning up parts of Powelton Avenue.

However, the workers were soon transported to a garage near Malcolm X Park, the site of either a community festival or a Knox rally the next day, depending on who you talk to. There they loaded a truck with barbecue grills and other goods for the next day's event.

On Saturday, the workers returned to the park and were instructed to set up for the event, which included T-shirts and posters supporting Knox's mayoral run.

"It was bizarre," Walker told the Daily News. "All of a sudden I found myself working for the Tom Knox campaign and wondering, 'How did I get here?'"

Jeff Doto, another Penn graduate student in Engineering, was also serving mandatory community service hours that day. He told 6ABC that, despite what organizers were calling the event, it seemed like a pro-Knox production to him.

"It was a Tom Knox rally," he said. "They had on every corner, the four corners of Malcolm X Park, Tom Knox signs. They were passing out flyers."

Blackwell admitted to asking John Fenton, who was supervising the community service effort, to bring some workers to the rally, but maintained that the event was not intended to represent any one political bent.

"This was not a Knox rally. This was a community rally. I asked nobody to do anything for a Knox rally. I asked them to do it for a community fair in the park where we had a church rally," she told 6ABC.

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